April 28 Coronavirus Update: Akiak Is Moving Houses As It Prepares For Flooding

Akiak is planning to move six houses from the riverbank this year.
Credit Greg Kim / KYUK

While villages along the Kuskokwim river are preparing themselves for possible flooding this spring, Akiak is busy moving houses threated by river erosion.

Tribal Chief Mike Williams Sr. said that the community waited for the ground to get less muddy to begin dragging the most endangered structures to sites away from the village.

“It’s going to take some time, but I’m pretty sure that at least two houses will be moved before the flood," Williams Sr. said.

Akiak is also preparing for flooding, something that used to happen fairly regularly during spring breakup before the recent spate of warm winters. It was “back to the past” this winter, with the kind of thick ice and heavy snowfall that in earlier years tended to jam up at a “y” on the Kuskowim about six miles downstream from Akiak.

“At one point, they used explosives on that portion of the river to take care of that jam right below Akiak. But in recent times, we haven’t seen the flood because of lack of thickness of ice and lack of snow. But I think we have plenty of those this year,” Williams Sr. said.

Williams Sr. remembers the floods during the 1960s that swamped many homes in what used to be the old village, which is now only a memory.

“The houses in Old Akiak, which is almost in the middle of the river, our house was almost all gone from all that water. That’s the worst in 60 years that I’ve been around here," Williams Sr. said.

Erosion remains a major issue in Akiak, but despite that there are some people in the village who want to stay exactly where they are. Even in the face of a flood and a community evacuation.

“We are also identifying those individuals who that do not want to be moved when the flood comes up, but we will be prepared with our boats to keep in contact," Williams Sr. said. 

Williams Sr. says that the plan is to keep moving homes in danger of erosion right up to the last minute, if flooding approaches Akiak.